It is something that I’ve become accustomed to hearing as I tell people that I’m preparing for any trip of a personal nature. The moment that I tell someone that I am driving to get to my destination, I am almost always asked some variation of the question “Am I crazy?” followed normally by the question “Why not (insert mode of transportation here)?” It is one of the times where I realize that I was either born in the wrong period or life or that maybe, just maybe, I am just as crazy as people have always suggested. I hope it’s neither, that it’s the explorer that led me to study history as my life’s work that is trying to make me a better person.
My former student activities advisor, John Bennett, has ironically written about the same topic recently on his blog and for a somewhat similar reason. When people travel through the same areas every day, it becomes so normal that it takes a sudden change, like the one that he mentions, to realize that it’s occurred. If you don’t travel through areas normally, this can be applied to the idea that the airplane allows you to see the world, though you are not likely to notice the nuances that are happening at ground level unless they’ve caused an extreme change to the landscape as viewed from above.
Bets and I recently returned from a trip to Ashland, OH to visit her family for the holidays. Our trip took us through several of the larger cities located along Interstates 65 and 71, including Nashville, TN, Louisville, KY, Cincinnati, OH & Columbus, OH. All of these cities are metropolises of one type or another, and all cities that I grew up knowing of their existence but not necessarily seeing them. The ability to drive through these towns (making sure that I did not cause any major car pileups while gawking at the buildings and amenities that existed) instead of getting on the bypass that allows you to skip the soul of a region is something that I would encourage anyone who has the time and the means to do. I do realize that getting to California from the East Coast requires the plane ride as well as overseas trips so I want to make sure I mention that before someone attempts to point out that fact as a smart aleck way of missing the point.
Mapquest and our need to get somewhere quickly to enjoy every possible second of every trip has caused us to sometimes not realize some hidden gems. There are so many people trying to rush through or get out that sometimes people fail to realize the joys that exist just under the surface. For daily travel within the city, maybe we should leave it to those forms of mass transit that will allow us to stop, pause and take note of the resources that already exist here instead of looking for something to come in and provide it. It also wouldn’t hurt if a bike lane or two allowed us to meander through neighborhoods and enjoy a sense of community, but I digress.
During our trip, I used my car for a quick half day trip over to Mansfield. I was able to park easily, and then take to the streets by foot, exploring the town and its gorgeous carousel (sorry, no picture this time, maybe next time). I did take a picture of these old signs because I had seen one of them on the National Trust’s Main Street website and was thrilled to find their actual home. I still wonder how many times I would have missed something if I hadn’t wandered off of the fast track for a moment.
If you have the opportunity to travel to another city within your region, perhaps the automobile, the old U.S. highway system and our sense of adventure should allow us to enjoy the Sunday drive slowing down to enjoy the view. I’d hope the same would also be true with life. Take a chance to slow down and enjoy every once in a while. That’s the plan for the new year for me, as well as some day and weekend trips to continue exploring some great towns.
Comments, questions, weird dancing bear pics… let me know.